Concept Mapping as a Classroom Assessment Technique – Part I

Author: Douglas Richardson, Paramedic, BS-PSM

Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) are designed to give both the educator and the student feedback on how well the student is learning and how well the educator is teaching. One of the most powerful that we can use is concept mapping. Concept mapping allows both the student and the teacher to see specific procedures or processes that they have learned or are in the process of learning. It may be the hardest CAT to master, but once you have mastered it and your students have the hang of it, it can be a very powerful teaching/learning tool.

Concept Maps vs. Algorithms

Concept mapping is similar to using algorithms. Concept maps show ideas and actions that are represented by boxes and the relationship (propositions) between them is represented by a line which connects the boxes. Concept maps require our students to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate. It makes them think. They are a visual format that helps our students see relationships. Our students are already good at tying assessment to treatment, and using concept maps allows them to visualize these often nebulous relationships. Hopefully in the end they make better clinicians.

Seeing Hierarchy

One of the most important aspects of concept mapping is that it shows hierarchy (see the outline below). At the highest levels you have broad concepts and as you add each layer to the map you go into more and more detail. For example, let’s look at the assessment, treatment and transport of a prehospital cardiac chest pain patient:

  • Prehospital Cardiac Chest Pain Patient
    • Assessment
      • AVPU
      • SAMPLE
      • OPQRST AS PN + I
      • Vitals
    • Diagnostic tool
      • Pulse oximetry
      • 4-lead EKG
      • 12 Lead EKG
        • STEMI
        • NonSTEMI
      • Blood Glucose Level
    • Procedures
      • Establish an IV
        • Give fluids
      • Treatment
        • Oxygen
        • Aspirin
        • Sublingual nitro
          • Morphine
          • Fentanyl
        • Transport
          • Closest facility
          • PCI capable facility

While an outline does a great job of showing hierarchy, its does not show relationships. The strength of concept mapping is that it not only shows the process, it shows the process and the relationships of each step!

Keep an eye on our blog for more details about using concept maps and the construction of a sample concept map.

Douglas began his career in public safety as a paid-on-call firefighter with the Havana City Fire Department in Illinois. He attended EMT-Basic training in 1992 at Spoon River College where he is now an adjunct professor of prehospital medicine. He has had his paramedic license since 1994 and has been a lead instructor since 1999. During his career with the fire service, Douglas was an instructor with the Illinois Fire Service Institute specializing in rescue disciplines. He retired as a captain after serving for 20 years. While with the fire department, Douglas also worked full-time for Mason County EMS, an ALS ambulance service in downstate Illinois, as the EMS educator. Douglas received his bachelor’s degree in public safety management from Franklin University in Columbus, Ohio, and is working on his master’s in public safety administration through Lewis University.

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One thought on “Concept Mapping as a Classroom Assessment Technique – Part I

  1. Pingback: Concept Mapping as a Classroom Assessment Technique – Part II - Medic-CE blog

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